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World Health Organization

W.H.O. Warns Pregnant Women Can get COVID-19 Vaccines

A pregnant woman being vaccinated in Tel Aviv. Credit…Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Friday changed its guidance for pregnant women considering a Covid-19 vaccine, abandoning opposition to immunization for most expectant mothers unless they were at high risk.

The change followed an outcry to the W.H.O.’s previous stance, which stated that the organization did “not recommend the vaccination of pregnant women” with the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Several experts had expressed disappointment on Thursday with the W.H.O.’s earlier position. The experts noted that it was inconsistent with guidance on the same issue from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and would confuse pregnant women looking for clear advice.

The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, while they have not been tested in pregnant women, have not shown any harmful effects in animal studies. And the technology used in the vaccines is generally known to be safe, experts said.

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How To Properly Store and ReHeat Breastmilk

The World Health Organization asserts that “breast milk is the ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants,” encouraging new mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. When new moms work outside of the home, however, many opt to pump and store their breast milk so that nannies and other childcare providers can continue providing their child with the most nutritious possible food source during this crucial time. These nannies are then tasked with the responsibility of properly handling the bottled breast milk, and understanding the best methods for storage.

Breast Milk Storage Information for Nursing Mothers

The La Leche League International, a leading breastfeeding advocacy group, suggests that breast milk be stored in two to four ounce amounts in order to minimize waste by either freezing or refrigeration. While frozen milk remains fresh for up to six months in a deep freezer, refrigerated milk used within eight days retains more of its original anti-ineffective properties.

Human breast milk that has been pumped can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours safely, but mothers are advised to refrigerate or chill their milk as soon as possible after pumping. Containers made of glass or hard plastic free from bisphenol A (BPA) with tight-fitting tops are ideal for storage after being washed in hot, soapy water and allowed to air dry after being thoroughly rinsed. There are also specially-designed freezer bags commercially available, though traditional food-storage bags aren’t recommended due to the possibility of rupture or leakage. Containers designated for freezer storage should not be filled to the brim, as the milk will expand as it solidifies.

Containers of pumped milk should be dated in order to facilitate use of older milk first, with the child’s name also included on the label if the pumped breast milk is intended for use in a daycare setting.

Preparation and Handling Information for Childcare Providers

Before handling stored breast milk to prepare a bottle, nannies and childcare providers should carefully and thoroughly wash their hands to prevent contamination. Frozen milk may be thawed either in the refrigerator or by immersing the container in warm water; using a microwave to either thaw or heat the breast milk is strongly discouraged. This method can both destroy valuable nutrient content and create hot spots in the bottle that can scald the delicate tissues of an infant’s mouth. Bottles microwaved for too long may also explode under intense heat, wasting the milk and creating quite a mess.

Once breast milk has been thawed, it should never be re-frozen. Bottles that a baby doesn’t finish should be discarded, rather than saved; the risk of contamination is very real, despite the antibiotic nature of expressed human breast milk. For this reason, nursing mothers are urged to store milk in two to four ounce containers to minimize waste. Frozen milk should be kept near the back of the freezer, because the temperature tends to be the most constant in this area.

Human breast milk can vary in color and consistency depending on the nursing mother’s diet, so color isn’t typically an indicator of freshness. The Mayo Clinic also reports that breast milk that has been frozen and later thawed may have a different consistency, color, and odor than freshly pumped milk. Additionally, breast milk can often separate into two distinct layers of milk and cream; this separation is also not an indication that milk isn’t fresh. To reincorporate the milk and cream, simply shake the storage container gently or swirl it carefully until it’s combined again.

Breast milk can be warmed for feeding by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water, or in a pan of water that has been heated but is not sitting on the stove. Test the temperature of milk before feeding it to their small charges to prevent burns and scalds due to overheated bottles. Commercially-available bottle warmers may also be effective tools, though microwave ovens are, once again, strongly discouraged.

Coming Soon: Male Birth Control Injections in Development


Although it is still a long way off, an injectable male contraceptive is in development. It would join condoms, withdrawal and vasectomies as an option for men to use to prevent their partners from becoming pregnant. Currently, pregnancy prevention methods typically focus on the woman. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 40 percent of all pregnancies in 2012 were unintended.

The injectable male contraceptive – which is a reported 96 percent effective – was developed and tested by a research arm of the World Health Organization and the East Virginia Medical School in the United States. A year-long study was carried out at ten centers in seven countries, including the U.S., Australia, Indonesia, Chile, Germany and India.

News of the experimental drug is being reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Mario Festin, a medical officer with WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research in Geneva, said the male contraceptive trial was what scientists call a proof-of-concept. “This hormonal combination of testosterone with the progestin or any other hormone that could facilitate the sustenance of the low sperm counts can actually lead to a level of sperm count that could be considered as contraceptive. And it could be done.”

The contraceptive drug for men is a combination of the male hormone testosterone, which significantly lowered the sperm count, and progestogen, a hormone in both sexes that in the men sustained the cessation of sperm production.

The drug suppresses the production of sperm to the point where pregnancy is unlikely. It involves a series of injections over several months before the sperm count drops enough to prevent pregnancy. The shots have to be given every two months to remain effective.

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Report: Iron Deficiency Puts 1/3 Pregnant Women At Risk


Around 35 percent of expectant mothers may be at risk of pregnancy complications – such as miscarriage or preterm birth – as a result of iron deficiency. This is the conclusion of a new study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

Iron deficiency is a common form of anemia, arising when the body does not have enough iron – a mineral present in a number of foods, including beef, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dried fruits.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30 percent of the global population are anemic, with most cases attributable to iron deficiency.

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Post-Ebola Teen Girls in Sierra Leone subjected to Invasive Pregnancy Tests, Stigmatized

After the Ebola epidemic this year, the Sierra Leone government formalized an informal ban that has existed for ten years that prevent pregnant girls from attending school.

Amnesty International released a report yesterday, Friday, November 6, stating that thousands of schoolgirls in Sierra Leone have been forced to undergo humiliating and degrading public pregnancy tests since the government banned pregnant girls from attending mainstream schools and taking exams.

Teachers and nurses have examined girls’ breasts and stomachs in front of their peers and forced the girls to take urine tests, the report “Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone” stated.

The invasive exams are discouraging many girls from going to school, whether they are pregnant or not, the rights group state.

 “This humiliating and degrading treatment has led to girls taking health risks to sit exams, such as strapping down their stomachs and breasts,” Amnesty International West Africa researcher Sabrina Mahtani told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Pregnant girls are being blamed and shamed… as Sierra Leone moves forward from the devastating Ebola crisis, it is vital that these girls are not left behind.”

While schools were closed for a year, many girls were subjected to sexual violence, abusive relationships were rife in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, and fueled a spike in teenage pregnancies, Amnesty said in its report “Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone”.

The epidemic hindered access to services including abortion, emergency contraception and post-rape counseling, while the closure of schools for almost a year left many girls particularly vulnerable to violence, the rights group said.

“It is not right. During Ebola, their parents did not have money so many girls had to go to men,” one girl told Amnesty.

The other unfortunate thing about it all is that Sierra Leone already had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the even before Ebola broke out in December 2013.

One in four girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had children or were pregnant, a 2013 government health survey found.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates preliminary that the number of teenage girls who became pregnant in Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola outbreak at more than 14,300.

After the ban was imposed earlier this year, The Ministry of Education stated that having pregnant girls to go to school would undermine their ability to concentrate and participate in class, expose them to ridicule and encourage others to become pregnant.

No word on the boys and what the fact they are fathers would do. Nope. Just the girls. le sigh

The government announced in May an alternative “bridging” education system allowing pregnant girls to go school, but at different premises and times to their peers.

The isolation could lead to further stigmatization and marginalization of the girls, Amnesty said in its report.

Only six in 10 girls between the ages of 15 and 24 in Sierra Leone are literate, compared with three-quarters of boys in that age range, figures from the 2013 government health survey show.

“Education is a right and not something for governments to arbitrarily take away as a punishment,” Mahtani said.

“Pregnant girls are being denied key chances to move forward with their lives, and to ensure early pregnancy does not become the event that determines the rest of their lives.”

Several organizations including UNICEF, the UK Department for International Development and UNFPA are helping girls to continue their education after giving birth, and give counseling and access to maternal and neonatal health services.

The World Health Organization says that even though maternal death rates in Sierra Leone has been halved  between 1990 and 2013, it still has one of the highest rates in the world with more than 1 in 100 women dies in childbirth.

Stanford Students Created a $300 version of a $20K Incubator For Babies in the Developing World

embrace warmer

Each year, more than 1 million babies die on their birth day.

About 20 million premature and low birth weight babies are born worldwide each year with 4 million dying within the first 4 weeks of life, according to the World Health Organization.  This amounts to 450 babies that die each hour and a substantial number of those that die are born in the developing world where there are not enough incubators which cost about $20,000.

Also, many babies are born in rural areas far from hospitals with adequate facilities to care for a premature newborn. A lot of the babies really just need warmth an incubator provides during those first crucial months.  Some babies are born with so little fat and many are unable to control their own body temperatures.

About 6 years ago, four Stanford University students were challenged in a class project to design a portable life-saving incubator that cost less than $300. The group, led by then female student, Jane Chen traveled to India, where the caregiver to patient ration is 1:2,000, to research and perfect their design.

And they did it, creating the Embrace Infant Warmer.

incubator and embrace

“Incubators are vital because the internal organs of premature babies are not fully developed at birth,” Chen wrote in a 2010 piece on CNN.com. Chen is now the co-founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations, a social enterprise that aims to help the 20 million premature and low birth weight babies born every year, through a low cost infant warmer.

She explained the concept and design of Embrace:

Embrace Infant Warmers are non-electric, miniature sleeping bags that use a removable wax insert, which can be heated safely using hot water. The product is easy to sanitize and can be heated over and over again.

The product has been designed specifically for resource-constrained settings. It looks like a small sleeping bag, which incorporates a wax-like phase change material in a plastic pouch that melts at body temperature (98.6 F) to keep the baby at a constant temperature.

The PCM pouch can be heated with either a short burst of electricity or by placing it in boiling water. Once melted, it can maintain a constant temperature for up to eight hours, after which it can be reheated.

In addition to being low cost, the product does not require a constant supply of electricity, complements existing practices such as skin-to-skin care and is extremely safe and intuitive to use.

After creating a prototype, the team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce their first round of Warmers used in India.  Today, Embrace ships the warmers to local clinics and other areas in the developing worldwide.  Costing less than 1% of a traditional incubator, the Embrace Infant Warmer  has helped over 150,000 babies to date.

The goal is to save the lives of 20 Million babies and they are well on their way. Embrace is not stopping there. This May, it launched another campaign and are creating a line of affordable healthcare technologies for women and children around the world.


This invention looks like a tiny sleeping bag and it s helped save 150 000 babies.
Good stuff!


Celebrity and Other Women participated in Inaugural National #BumpDay

bump day

Valerie Bertinelli was among several women and celebrities like Odette Annable who shared their pregnant belly in celebration of #BumpDay, yesterday, July 22.

It is a day created by our partners at WhatToExpect.com in coordination with the United Nations Foundation, International Medical Corps and 1,000 Days to raise awareness about maternity health inequality around the world.

Everyone, whether currently pregnant, recently pregnant, pregnant a long time ago or know someone who is or has been pregnant, was invited to participate in the day in several ways. The most common way was by posting a #BumpDay selfie in social media with the hashtag and explanation on why they are participating in the day.


Cuba is First Nation to Eliminate Mom-to-Baby HIV & Syphilis Transmission

cuba hiv

Great news!

The World Health Organization has announced that Cuba has become the first nation in the world to eliminate mother-to child HIV transmission.

The WHO said this advancement is proof that the end of the AIDS epidemic is indeed possible. The island nation, with whom the US has recently reconnected diplomatic ties, is also the first nation to eliminate mother-to-child syphilis transmission.

“Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a Tuesday press release. “This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation.”

To accomplish this feat, the communist nation worked with the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization in 2010 on a mission to eliminate both mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission. The nation provided HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies then substituting vaginal deliveries for cesarean ones and bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding.

Annually, an estimated 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant and, if not treated, there is a 15% to 45% chance they will transmit the virus during pregnancy, labor, delivery or through breastfeeding. However when antiretroviral medicines are given to moms and their babies, the risk drops to a little over 1%.

This is excellent news and great to see that a “developing” non “First World” nation accomplished this milestone as it gives hope to those countries without sufficient resources that they too can eliminate the transmission as well.

h/t CNN

Study: Drinking organic milk while pregnant delays baby’s development

Women who drink organic milk while pregnant or breastfeeding could be putting their babies at risk, according to a new study by scientists in the UK.

Scientists at the University of Reading in England published research Tuesday that states the reduced levels of iodine in organic and UHT milk is harmful for babies.

In the research, published in the journal Food Chemistry, the scientists assert that the amount of iodine found in organic and UHT milk was a third lower than that found in regular milk.

The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women eat foods that are rich in iodine because of the role it plays in the healthy development of the baby’s brain and nervous system while in the womb. It says that iodine deficiency is one of the leading causes of impaired cognitive development in children.

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Study: Stress during pregnancy leads to Premature Birth

Research from the University of Lethbridge has suggested that high stress levels during pregnancy might lead to premature births in future generations. This could help explain the high number of premature births that some regions have. The study is not suggesting that the stress to premature pregnancy effect is immediate, but rather that it means the daughters of stressed women will have a higher risk of a shortened pregnancy.

The hypothesis has been drawn up after researchers observed the birthing behavior of rats. When the rats were put in stressful situations during the late stages of pregnancy, they gave birth at the normal time. However, the offspring of the stressed rats had shorter pregnancies and therefore a higher number of their own babies were born before what would be considered a normal gestation period was up.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. This is approximately one in every 10. Scientists have seen that chemical exposure may influence this, but are now beginning to understand that stress also plays a large role.

Gerlinde Metz, professor of neuroscience, explains that once the “footprint” of stress can be better understood, the risk of pre-term birth can be accessed in future generations. This allows for prediction of shorter pregnancies and intervention should it be required in order to keep mother and baby safe.

According to Metz, stress can alter genes. Stressed out pregnant ladies can pass on these altered genes to their daughters. This is why in the rat experiments it was the daughters of the stressed mother rats who showed shorter pregnancies. The research suggests that the same could be true in humans, and this might explain why in some areas of the world, more pre-term births are seen than others

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